PIL against rampant reclamation and destruction of wetlands in Mumbai


Vanashakti & Ors. vs. Union of India & Ors. ( PIL No. 87 OF 201 at High Court Of Judicature At Bombay)       Synopsis: This PIL challenged the inaction taken by State authorities against rampant reclamation and destruction of Wetlands in Mumbai, in complete contravention to the Wetland Rules, 2010 and the Environment Protection Act, 1986. An order staying all kinds of destruction, reclamation and dumping of debris on mangroves/wetlands was passed in 2014, which was reiterated in 2015. ISSUE: Inaction of state authorities in stopping reclamation, illegal construction and dumping of debris on wetlands in Mumbai FACTS LEADING TO THE 29.01.2016 ORDER: Several complaints to the police, collectors and departments were filed on illegal dumping and reclamation of wetlands taking place all over Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane by invoking Wetland Rules, 2010 and Environment Protection Act, 1986.
  • By order dated 14th October, 2013, the HC had directed the Secretary, Department of Environment and the Secretary of the Forest Department to take a decision whether they propose to adopt the Wetland Atlas prepared by the Central Government or whether the State Government wanted to prepare their own brief document in respect of Wetland Atlas for the State of Maharashtra. It was further directed that in respect of areas which have been identified as Wetland Areas in the Wetland Atlas of the Central Government, there should be no reclamation of land and any kind of construction was not permitted without seeking leave of the HC.
  • By order dated 31st January, 2014, the list of locations on which reclamation and destruction of mangroves was being carried out in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai was handed over to the Directorate General of Police by the Petitioners with further direction to take prompt action against those who are responsible for destroying the mangroves.
  • By order dated 19th March, 2014, the HC gave further directions to the State Government that no permission should be granted for destruction and reclamation of wetlands and prompt action including lodging of FIR/complaint be taken.
  • By order dated 18th February, 2015, we had directed the Central Government to take appropriate instructions regarding the precautions which will be taken by the Central Government to prevent misuse of wetlands owned and possessed by the Central Government.
  Status: Pending with continuous mandamus issued.     Holding (Summary of the order dated 29.01.2016):  
  • The order dated 29.01.2016 recognised that though orders have been passed from time to time in this PIL, various authorities have not taken any action against the rampant reclamation of Wetlands and illegal construction on Wetlands and also against unauthorized construction on Wetlands.
  • Further on 29.01.2016, it was directed to all City civil courts in Mumbai to not entertain suits with respect to unauthorised and illegal constructions on the wetlands as the HC has already indicated that such persons are required to approach the Bombay HC in the present PIL to seek appropriate orders. Copy of the order was directed to be placed before the Principal Judge, City Civil and Sessions Court for circulation to all judges of city civil courts.